Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 236)
Matthew 22:34-40 NRSV
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” In our selfish age, we often use these words to permit our self-love, to emphasize it. “You cannot love another unless you love yourself,” we say. We relish the Scriptural foundations for our own self-esteem and the increase of our ego. But that was not our Lord Jesus’ point. Our self-love is assumed, not permitted; the command is to transfer this self-love to another. “The one you love will be to you as another self,” Aelred said long ago, “if you pour out your self-love into him or her.” We perceive the Other as a mirror, rather than an enemy, a reflection of ourselves rather than an antagonist. We choose to love them with the same self-preserving love that comes naturally to us. And as we enter more fully the Kingdom-life, we come to “consider others better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
The fountain and origin of friendship is love; there can be love without friendship, but there is no friendship without love…Spiritual love combines both reason and affection; by reason it is purified, and, by affection, it is made sweet….The foundation for spiritual love is the love of God, to which all things, all love or affection, whether secret or open, all friendship, are referenced. And whatever is built on this foundation must conform to this foundation, and if it strays, it must be brought back into conformity with this foundation.
Our Lord and Savior himself has prescribed for us the true form of friendship saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Behold the mirror. You love yourself. Yes, clearly, if you love God; surely, if you are that kind we have described one would choose as a friend. But I’m curious—do you think you should reward yourself for loving yourself? Of course not; it is simply natural to be dear to yourself. Unless, therefore, you transfer this self-love to the other, holding him or her dear, equally as to yourself, you cannot taste true friendship. Then, the one you love will be to you as another self, if you have poured out this love of self into him or her.
—Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167)
Spiritual Friendship 3.2-5; 3.69-70
Prayer of Response
Eternal God, you have bid us love you with our whole selves, and even to love our neighbors with our whole selves. Continually reveal to us the mysteries of your love, that we ourselves might increase in love, for the sake of the world. Amen.